The Pittsburgh region ranks dead last among the top 40 regions in the country in the number of women-owned businesses relative to the size of its population. Also, the number of women-owned businesses here has grown more slowly than in most other regions.(A version of the column also appeared at Harold's blog.) If the name of the game in Pittsburgh's arguable, ongoing revitalization is *new business creation,* and it is, then these are damning statistics.
Harold sees some cause for optimism: He calls out several of the resources in the region that are available to women who are or who want to be entrepreneurs. Chatham's Center for Women's Entrepreneurship. The Center for Women in Business at Pitt's Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence. The National Association of Women Business Owners. The Women's Business Network.
I absolutely understand the importance of having dedicated resources available for women. But with all of the cheering in Pittsburgh about entrepreneurship over the last decade, the region's terrible ranking on women as entrepreneurs says something, I think, about what's not working in the region's entrepreneurial climate generally, and at least some of the responsibility has to lie with Pittsburgh's entrepreneurship "middleware." That is, what's missing from the column is any reference to the big hitters among enterprises devoted to supporting and nurturing local entrepreneurship: Innovation Works, the Life Sciences Greenhouse, Idea Foundry, funders at Blue Tree Angels, SBDCs at Pitt and Duquesne.
History and culture are difficult things to overcome, and those "big hitters" are as subject to them as any institutions in town. For decades, Pittsburgh's labor market was notoriously hostile to women in the workforce. Today, more women than men are employed in Pittsburgh overall. That's huge, and a huge shift. The next step is for Pittsburgh's principal entrepreneurship resources to make entrepreneurship as easy as possible for *everyone.*